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Archive for January, 2012

He was denounced and vilified day after day, year after year, as a dangerous “communist,” “Marxist,” “socialist,” anti-American radical . . .

Hmmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

He was in fact a prophetic Baptist preacher with an unwavering vision of a better America, and one of the most courageous Christians and Americans in history.

His “Letter from Birmingham Jail” always bears re-reading and reflection.

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AMY NICOLE McKAY, 33 today, shown here with baby Rhys (29 weeks)

Yes, it was 33 years ago today that Amy Nicole (Ames) McKay came into this world, kicking and screaming and generally acting like a baby.

However, she grew up to be:

— mature
— beautiful (see photo)
— smart
— outgoing
— warm
— loving (anybody who could love me that much has got to be overflowing with love)
— compassionate and generous (gives her Sunday mornings to serving the homeless)
— Christ loving, Christ serving (see above)
— a great mother and member in good standing of the PTO
— a devoted wife to her man she’s been with since they were practically babies
— a successful small businesswoman (click on All Things Planned above)
— happy, well-adjusted and pretty much smiling and enjoying life to the hilt at all times with the possible exception of when her first-born the litte Tex Mex Trey-Hey Rodriguez is making her whack
— funny as all git-out with a slightly twisted, off-the-wall sense of humor and where that comes from is a mystery

Happy birthday, kid. Daddy loves you.

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This just in to the CNN news room:
CNN News has learned that the church is a religious body of self-righteous hypocrites who’ve started and waged nasty wars for centuries and Jesus would not be down with religion. We take you now to some mysterious plaza that looks like it might be in front of a church–or is it a museum like the church is becoming?–where a young, good-looking, scrubbed up and buff young man in a cool leather jacket and jeans is down with Jesus.

Take it away kid–you’re going viral with this poetry!*

[Religion is like “perfume on a coffin?” Huh???? We got THIS for RAP????]

But seriously, ladies and germs–church is a “man-made invention?”

Who knew????
Indeed, a man named Jesus sort of left it to a man named Peter to get down with that church thing.

This video has gone viral on Facebook and that’s certainly understandable. The young man in the leather jacket makes some points that I certainly can’t argue with, starting with “Jesus is not a Republican.” (Amen to that! Jesus is not even a conservative and he’s not a librul despite the librul political and theological view that a lot of people including clergy take; Jesus would condemn a lot of the words and actions of good liberals as much as he would a lot of conservatives. The “Jesus was a liberal” label irks me to no end but that’s another argument for another day.)

Again, the “rapper” makes a lot of points that I actually agree wholeheartedly with, but his theology of church and religion has holes enough to drive a church bus through. I won’t go into any detailed critique, but will say that the guy blatantly contradicts himself a couple of times. He condemns the “self-righteous,” probably because he’s so self-righteous. He alludes to the religious/church types as being oh so judgmental, but show me a breathing man or woman alive who doesn’t make a thousand snap judgments a day. Churchy, religious people included.

Call me judgmental, but I just can’t get all the wa down with this white boy, Roy. I was put off the minute he started getting down with the down and dirty people in that leather jacket (nice!) and looking all buff and clean. If he came to film this video in the parking lot of the apartments where I live here in somewhat of what you might call a Dallas “hood,” Some of my less than grace-filled young friends would be laughing for the next six years.

If he came to the parking lot of my apartment complex to film on a Saturday night, they’d laugh and laugh and then whip his ass and take his gas and Rev. Paul would have to call the cops on them. Again. (They love the Rev. anyway. They would tell you he be tight awright.*)

Honestly (“the truth shall set you free,” so always speak your truth), part of ME wants to punch this guy in the nose. Lucky for him I’m an almost pacifist, having studied in great detail and intensity the pacifist and “just war” theology of religious/churchy types going back to Jesus himself, who gave us church and gave us (yes) religion, not to mention the apostles. Not to mention the great churchy saints in the church tradition like St. Augustine and so many others.

(Am I coming across as self-righteous here? Gad. Too bad, so sad.)

As I pointed out on my Facebook page, Father Fred Schmidtt articulates how I feel about his dapper rapper better than I can.

Click here and read it and think about what Father Fred has to say and what the young rapper has to say–they both have some good points for sure.

And, truthfully and seriously–the kid in the video has a lot of great stuff to say and even if I punched him in the nose I would take him to the pub for a beer if he didn’t kill me (he may not buy into the church tradition of Christian pacifism; at least he’s serious about his theology and anybody who actually thinks through their theology will do to walk the Jordan with.
*I once had a neighbor in my uh, interesting apartment complex bang on my door at 2 in the morning, stoned out of his bucket. “Pastor Paw, I’m ready to give my life to Jesus, man.” I told him Jesus was out and watched him stagger home so he wouldn’t pass out in the parking lot and get run over. He didn’t remember coming to my apartment the next day and somehow me and Jesus were not surprised.

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The economic ultra-conservative libertarian Nick Gillespie makes the conservative case in the video above for cutting defense spending.

Real and rational cuts in defense spending will never happen, of course, because so many “capitalistic vultures” make such huge gobs of money off of killing and maiming people around the world and keeping irrational defense spending going. In addition, the leaders in D.C. use defense spending for creating jobs back home and creating the illusion that they are keeping us safe by throwing more of our tax dollars into the mouth of the beast that is the military industrial complex.

Democrats are just as complicit in this corruption–and it is a form of corruption–as Republicans are. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to Republicans, who, BTW, have their political house in such a mess right now–and who contributed so mightily to our national debt after 911–that it’s galling to hear them lecture us about the virtues of unbridled capitalism and defense spending to-boot.

But back to the Democrats. I’ll never forget that back when Clinton was the Grand Poobah of the country, the Pentagon submitted it’s proposed spending budget to him one year, and Clinton was not impressed. He INCREASED military spending way over and above what the military brass requested so as to stay in favor with the military industrial complex and to secure and protect himself from the eternal Republican mantra that “Democrats are weak on defense and national security.”

And then there’s Obama. To my way of thinking, it was, and remains, a sad day when the Nobel Peace people gave the Prez the Grand Prize for peace with the likes of the MLK’s and so many other real and courageous and principled and committed peacemakers. (MLK has always been a real hero of mine, not only for the courage he showed in civil rights but his equally courageous stand against the Vietnam War way, way before most snapped to the injustce of the war.)

I’m no ultra-conservative libertarian–far from it–but in spite of usually leaning vaious degrees of left of center in my politics, I always describe my political affiliation as “advancing the kingdom of God.” Never been one to drink anybody’s political cool-aid and would not belong give allegiance to any political party that, to paraphrase Marx (Groucho, that is) would have me for a member.

(Although, I don’t think I’ve ever sent $ to the “Grand” Ol’ Party and can’t say that about the Obamites. I send him a buck or too just about every time New Gingrich or Rick Perry opens their mouth, as I did when W. was running things. Into the ground.

As I’ve often said here and elsewhere–even before I was an ordained minister–I’m an “almost pacifist” on matters of war and peace. I do believe that in rare cases, violence and force used to protect the slaughter of innocents can by justified by even a peace-seeking, peace-loving Christian idealist like me. It can be justified on grounds of love of neighbor, since sitting on one’s hands while somebody gets slaughtered doesn’t strike me as being very neighborly if I have the ability to stop it. Not using violence can be un-Christian in my theological P.O.V.

But that’s another argument for another day.

The argument here today is–don’t believe them when they tell you more and ever-more money for military spending is an absolute must.

Paz.

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CHECK OUT THIS GREAT MOVIE IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT: OSCAR ROMERO WAS A DEAR FRIEND OF GUSTAVO GUTIERREZ WHO GAVE HIS VERY LIFE FOR THE POOR: HE WAS SHOT DEAD DURING MASS BECAUSE OF HIS OUTSPOKEN "LIBERATION THEOLOGY" MINISTRY

During my sort of spiritual retreat from the world during the month of Advent I revisited the Liberation Theology of Gustavo Gutierrez by reading his early books, which to this day are controversial but important.

Liberation Theology, which starts with the assumption from the Bible that God has a “preferential option for the poor,” informs a big piece of my own personal theology. Back in seminary, I read and studied an emormous amount of Gutierrez’s thought in seeking to figure out, as every seminarian has to figure out, what I believe about all things God and why I believe what I believe about God and all things God.

That’s what a seminarian does–studies all kinds of biblical scholars and theologies and faith traditions, as well as digging deep and deeper and then deeper still into the Bible, to figure out his or her own theology. All this so that he or she can apply his or her theology in practical ministry out in the “real” world inhabited by all those broken people in need of God’s love and grace and tender mercies. Because all those people are going to ask the clergy person all kinds of questions about all things God.

Any preacher, chaplain, rabbi or anyone else in the life of ministry has to have his or her theology down pat in order to be able to answer the child who at, say, a children’s sermon in a Sunday morning worship service, might pop up out of nowhere and ask the pastor, “Reverend, is the Dahli Lama gonna go to hell ’cause he don’t believe in Jesus? My Mama says he is.”

Like I say, you better know what your theology of “hell” is and—be able to defend it to that mama when worship’s over.

Now . . .

Click here for a 2003 interview with Gutierrez, who remains a quite vigorous and important theologian to this day and will be an important theologian for all time and God love him because I love him in the way that I love all those whose theologians whose thought and lives in faith that I carry in my heart, mind, body, soul and spirit every day.

And while the interview with America Magazine is a little dated . . .

well . . . we all know about that gap between rich and poor of which the Padre speaks–it’s only gotten wider by miles.

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“Where were you when I created the earth?”

— God’s powerful, non-answer to Job’s burning questions

The genius filmmaker Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life” was one of the trippiest, most surreal, and thought-provoking movies I’ve ever seen.

I saw it months and months ago and still not entirely sure what to make of it and it’s certainly not for everybody, but it’s a great movie on many levels, and great if only because it has stirred so much ongoing theological discussion. An agnostic couple I know quite well saw it twice and told me that it changed their entire perspective on faith and especially the Christian faith, making them more respectful and understanding of the faith and Christianity in particular. (Which isn’t to say that it’s an outright Christian movie.)

 

Here’s a theological interpretation from Father Barron. . . .

And click here for what the reviewers had to say.

 

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A pastor colleague and former seminary classmate posted this wonderful TED video from a filmmaker who has done some amazing timelapses.

His introduction is short and the film he presents is worth the 10 minutes of viewing for some meditative viewing.

Happy Weekend & Grace & Peace, you of the Cult of Jitterbug and others who may read this.

Paul

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Here’s all your Jitterbugger has to say about the field of G.O.P. presidential hopefuls.

What more can you say?

It would be entertaining if there weren’t so much at stake for the country, I’ll say that.

Honk if you agree.

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IN THE PHOTO: A serious Buddhist at prayer in a temple in Kaifeng, Central China. Photo by the Jitterbugger his own self.

Occasionally here at the blawg that is saving the world I’ll mention that I have an abiding interest in Buddhism and find a lot of its principles to be quite compatible with the teachings of Christ Jesus. Every once in a while some stiff-minded ultra-conservative Christian will stumble across one of those postings in a Google search or something and send me an email raking me over the coals and essentially condemning me as some kind of heretic (OK, I’m a heretic) or some kind of really ignorant, misguided man of the cloth who is leading people astray from the “real” God and is surely bound to burn in hell forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

Granted, I’m such a heretic, I doubt very seriously, and then some, that God burns people in any real, literal hell forever and ever and ever and ever. What kind of loving God would do such a thing? And anyway, as my mother used to say–she who grew up scrounging for food in the Depression years after my sorry excuse for a maternal grandfather abandoned her, my grandmother, my aunt and my uncle, “There’s enough Hell on this earth.”

I’ve always said I would never be a Buddhist–although when I get emails from all-knowing Christians who seem to have pipelines to the real God, Buddhism looks all the more appealing–and I certainly don’t buy into reincarnation and such. But then, I know a lot of practicing Buddhists who don’t buy into reincarnation. Buddhism is not that rigid and dogmatic.

And true, one can argue that Buddhism is at core more a philosophy than religion, but even if it’s “just a philosophy” it’s a philosophy that has at its very core a lot of very Christ-like fundamentals.

One of the Buddhists that I always pay attention to is Thich Nhat Hanh, who is universally accepted as one of the greatest of living Buddhists teachers. What follows below are the 14 Buddhist precepts he expands on in his book ‘Interbeing’: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism (revised edition: Oct. l993, published by Parallax Press).

It seems to me that a lot of Christians could do a lot worse than actually to live by a lot of these very Christ-like guidelines, starting with Number 3:

1
Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

2
Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

3
Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.

4
Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.

5
Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

6
Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.

7
Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.

8
Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

9
Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

10
Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

11
Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.

12
Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.

13
Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

14
Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realisation of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

From the book ‘Interbeing’: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, revised edition: Oct. l993 by Thich Nhat Hanh, published by Parallax Press, Berkeley, California

*Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, poet, peace activist, and the author of Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and many other books. He lives in a monastic community in south-western France called Plum Village, where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees world-wide. He conducts retreats throughout the world on the art of mindful living, and has conducted special retreats for American Vietnam War veterans, psychotherapists, artists, environmental activists and children.

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